It’s weird to think that I’ve written more than 600 reviews since I started my website back in 2016. Of course, as I cross-post these reviews to various sites like IMDb, Goodreads, and Amazon, I started receiving requests for reviews relatively soon after I started gaining some traction from my posts (my reviewer ranking is above 23,000). I’ll ignore the requests clearly from Chinese sellers trying to manipulate their Amazon rankings, but I do have a soft spot for authors.
Unfortunately, most authors don’t know how to interact with reviewers—especially when sending a request via e-mail. They all understand the value of reviews, but they don’t take the time to ensure they’re making the best first impression. After all, reviewers are people and sending a review request is much like pitching an agent: you want to show you’ve done your homework. As a result, most reviewers will ignore these requests or send them to their spam folder, which wastes the author’s precious time when they could be spending it promoting their book.
First impressions are huge when asking for reviews.
Yes, I understand that if you send out a ton of e-mails, eventually, you get a few hits from people who hand out 5-star reviews like candy. However, this “shotgun” approach is lazy and shows the author doesn’t know their audience. For example, let’s say I read a book about childrearing and left a review on Amazon. This is not the type of book I regularly read, so a smart author will visit my Amazon profile and see that this book is an outlier. Instead, I am likely to be inundated with review requests for other parenting books from first-time authors because the book I reviewed is known to be “famous,” and these authors want to think their books are just as good. However, I generally accept any review request that can provide a physical copy, so they may be disappointed when they receive a less-than-stellar review because I don’t regularly read these types of books.
This brings up another point that I think most authors sending review requests fail to consider. The only way consumers can trust the reviews posted online is if these reviews are honest and unbiased. Sure, a reviewer might receive a free copy of a book in exchange for a review, but they aren’t required to give a 5-star review of the book. I value honest reviews because, as a consumer, I want to trust that I’m purchasing a product that someone else has legitimately enjoyed. I will often ignore 5-star reviews with less than a dozen words, much like I’ll filter out the 1-star reviews from people who didn’t even finish reading the book.
Many review requests are basically spam.
With all this in mind, what are some of the traps authors fall into when “cold calling” reviewers? The first thing that I notice is their failure to follow instructions. I have posted on my Amazon profile instructions on what an author must do to request a review from me, and rarely do these authors comply with what I ask (I’ll get into why this is a little later).
Second, I find too many authors rely heavily on the “comp title”—a book they can compare theirs with to entice potential reviewers. Often, authors choose famous books that I’ve reviewed (I’ve lost count of how many Ender’s Game-type requests I’ve received) that their book can’t possibly live up to. This is a dangerous game to play, as I’ll often have the famous book in mind when I’m reading their book and will inevitably be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to that standard (thus hurting their review score).
Finally, most review requests are too long. I’ve received complete synopses, first chapters, and even full books attached to the e-mail when all I need is a two-sentence pitch and a link to the book’s information (either on their website or on Goodreads/Amazon). This is a case where “more” is actually a detriment, as it shows me they aren’t confident in their book, so they give as much information as possible. Most readers make a decision about a book in about 30 seconds—usually with a cover, title, and two-sentence description—so all this extra effort the author puts into this e-mail is wasted.
Of course, all this ignores the biggest issue with review requests: how did they get my e-mail in the first place? Sure, I have it posted at the top of my Amazon profile, but 99% of the time, these requests reference my Amazon reviews and completely ignore the other details I put on my profile (see above about following instructions). This is because these authors are using third-party sites like AMZDiscover to glean reviewer’s e-mails from Amazon.
If you read Amazon’s Terms and Conditions (riveting, I know), you’ll see that Amazon is not likely to give away the e-mails of its reviewers. If you use sites like AMZDiscover, not only are you stealing from Amazon (which can get your account suspended), but you are violating these reviewers’ privacy. Basically, all the review requests I receive are copy-pasted templates showing me how prevalent this is (it’s still lazy). If authors hate template rejection letters from agents, they should also know reviewers hate template review requests. Sure, a cute and humorous review request can work to get you a review—but only once. If others use the same template, reviewers won’t find it funny anymore. They’ll find it annoying.
Ultimately, authors who cut corners in promoting their book are likely to cut corners in writing their book, so this method of requesting reviews is not the best way to go about this process. Instead of just spamming a bunch of e-mail inboxes, go to communities like Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to find willing reviewers to give your book the reviews it deserves. If you still want to try the “shotgun” approach, I’d suggest uploading your book to sites like Booksprout, which brings reviewers to an author’s book instead of the author trying to find the reviewers themselves. If an author still wants to use Amazon to find reviewers, I would suggest taking a little more time to vet the list of potential reviewers, as this extra bit of work shows the author cares enough to treat reviewers like people, not a product. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a fan of your work in the process.
Do you review products online? Do people request your reviews?
If you receive review requests, what are some things that annoy you about them?
What are some other places to find reviewers? Book clubs? Libraries?